Guide to buying a pedigree kitten such as a Maine Coon
The following question has been asked in Petfix Club community, and to widen the sharing of the information that it’s prompted, I’m putting this into a post that can be referred to easily by others in the future.
Can someone give me advice or information about buying a pedigree kitten? My partner and I recently paid a deposit to a GCCFI registered breeder of Maine Coon cats for a Maine Coon kitten. They are not expecting a litter until later this year so we’re in the waiting phase. At the time I was asked questions but I didn’t ask many myself, aside from specifying the gender and colour. I’m aware that many suggest you should be asking the breeder for some information and evidence of the parents’ health and breeding conditions. Could an expert list the questions or evidence that we should be asking breeders for when buying any animal, but specifically for me, a Maine Coon cat? I think it would be a good discussion for members to reference.
This is an important topic: while “kitten farmers” do not exist in the same way as the bulk breeding “puppy farmers”, there’s no doubt that the quality of kitten breeders does vary, as does everything in life, and it’s important to be able to make an informed decision when making this significant purchase. A kitten will hopefully be with you for fifteen years or more, so it’s extremely important that you choose the healthiest, best quality kitten that you can find.
Membership of a professional organisation is helpful
It’s a very useful start that you are buying from a cat breeder who is a member of GCFFGI. While membership of a professional association will not absolutely guarantee that a breeder is doing everything right, I would see this as a generally positive indicator. Members of this association are obliged to adhere to specific ethical guidelines, so this means that they are far more likely to be “good breeders” than non members. Of course, non-members can also be good breeders, but it is very difficult for a newcomer to the cat world to make this judgement, so in general, it’s safer and easier to stay with a breeder who is a member.
In Ireland, the Governing Council of Cat Fancy in Ireland (GCCFI) is the main governing body for showing and breeding pedigree cats. Their website is very helpful for people who are considering getting a new kitten, and the advice that they offer is very helpful: I have copied this word for word below.
Advice when buying a kitten
The GCCFI requires that no kitten be permitted to go to a new home before 13 weeks of age. At least seven days prior to this, the kitten must have completed a full course of vaccinations, including a health check, given by a Veterinary Surgeon. The Breeder must ensure that kittens are house-trained, inoculated and in good general health. Unfortunately there a few unscrupulous breeders and we would warn you of the following when you go to see kittens. Do not agree to purchase a kitten with any of these signs.
- Lethargic and not active as a kitten should be
- Discharge from eyes, ears or nose
- Sneezing or coughing
- Bald patches
- The kitten’s coat should be free from fleas and not have any bumps or scars
You should be shown the mother and other siblings. If the father is owned by the breeder you should also see him. When you purchase the kitten you should be given a full set of papers which include a signed pedigree, transfer of ownership and a fully completed vaccination certificate. Good breeders will also give you a diet sheet and probably an information sheet. Do not accept the kitten without these papers. Unscrupulous Breeders may tell you the kitten is sneezing/coughing because he has just been vaccinated. Do not accept this.
Specific details for a particular breed
Furthermore, the GCCFI website includes a link to the UK-based GCCF website that has a page dedicated to all of the recognised breeds of cat. If you click on the image of the cat breed of your choice (e.g. Maine Coon) you will be taken to a page that gives you comprehensive helpful information about that breed. Furthermore, on the left-hand side of the specific cat breed page, you will find a section titled “Breeding Policy”. If you click on this link, you are taken to a thirteen-page document of detailed information about the precise specific details of what should be done to breed healthy Maine Coon kittens. This may be excessively detailed for some people, but I would strongly recommend that this should be printed out and scrutinised carefully: it provides up to date information about the health and disease of the breed, and about what pre-breeding tests should ideally be carried out by a top-quality breeder to avoid inherited problems. You can then compare this list with the tests that the breeder selling you a kitten has carried out, to make sure that they tally. And if there are any gaps, you will be informed enough to ask why a test may not have been carried out.
Preventing inherited disease
Every breed of cat is prone to specific diseases. In Maine Coons, Hypertrophic Cardio Myopathy (HCM),
Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKDef) Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) are well known. Ideally, cats that are going to be used for breeding should be screened for such diseases, by a blood test and sometimes by having an ultrasound scan to double check for any evidence of Hypertrophic Cardio Myopathy. You may read that Maine Coon cats are also prone to Hip Dysplasia, and it is possible to have breeding cats x-rayed to have their hips assessed. In fact, this problem seems to be rare in UK and Irish Maine Coons, so screening is not carried out as often as in other parts of the world.
Use your own cop on
I thought for some time about how to title this final paragraph, and the term “cop on” sums it up. When you are visiting the breeder, be alert to signs that all is well, or not well. Observe the cleanliness of the premises, how the seller interacts with her cats, and how they interact with you. If you feel a sense of uneasiness at all, listen to that feeling, and move on. In most cases, people who breed cats are lovely people, and you should come away with a feeling of mutual respect and liking. A good breeder wants to find the best home possible for their kittens, which is why you will find yourself being quizzed by the person selling you the animal. It’s a two way street.
A final word
This may all seem like a lot of work for the apparently simple task of buying a new kitten. Remember that this is a lifetime purchase and it’s so important to do it right. It’s well worth while the effort to research this properly. You are far more likely to have an enjoyable and successful partnership with the new animal in your life if you follow the steps suggested above.